Thursday, March 20, 2008

Meat and methane

If you haven't yet realized the environmental consequences of a carnivorous diet, take a pause before your next tasty mouthful and think about the global warming it will cause.

In Climate change experts target cow flatulence, the Telegraph reports on research being conducted in Scotland to reduce the amount of methane a cow produces. They report that a cow has the same impact on greenhouse warming as the average family car.

I asked for clarification on this. Apparently these figures were based on a cow producing 400L of methane per day, and a car that does 12,000 miles per year. The cows daily impact on global warming is 1.6 times as great as the car travelling 33 miles a day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Would you like to live in a Sudanese refugee camp?

I just came across an piece in the Western Standard, Cooling it on Warming.

I can't say that I am swayed by Jan Narveson's editorial. He obviously hasn't much of a grip on the subject, as shown by his confusion of weather and climate change. He does make the point that if everybody lived up to Kyoto, the net result in terms of climate cooling over 50 years would be in the order of 0.1 degree Celsius - equivalent to nothing.

To me, this just indicates that Kyoto doesn't go nearly far enough. We have been abusing the biosphere ever since the Industrial Revolution. It is going to take a long time to revert that cumulative abuse.

I do agree that science doesn't have all the answers. Also that there is only a certain probability that continuing CO2 emissions will lead to environmental disaster. But three things are very clear to me.

  • Our excesses of population and lifestyle are a gross abuse of the biosphere upon which we depend for our life.
  • The natural systems that drive our climate are very complex. It is impossible to accurately predict their behavior under abnormal circumstances.
  • These natural systems are huge. If they do suddenly switch into a permanent catastrophic mode, there is nothing we can do about it. Nothing.

This is a high stakes game that we cannot afford to loose. I for one would prefer some relatively insignificant hardships now in the hope that we can avert much worse consequences later.

Have you ever considered what it would be like to live somewhere like a Sudanese refugee camp?

Because that could be the consequence of doing nothing about global warming.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tell China to respect Tibet

I just got this in from, an organization that has over 2 million members, and has begun to make a real impact on global politics. The Economist writes that Avaaz is poised to deliver "a deafening wake up call" to world leaders, the Indian Express welcomes "the biggest web campaigner across the world" and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore says "Avaaz is inspiring, and has already begun to make a difference."

Dear friends,

Tibetans have exploded onto the streets in frustration--call on China to respect human rights and enter dialogue with the Dalai Lama now:
After decades of repression under Chinese rule, the Tibetan people's frustrations have burst onto the streets in protests and riots. With the spotlight of the upcoming Olympic Games now on China, Tibetans are crying out to the world for change.

After decades of repression under Chinese rule, the Tibetan people's frustrations have burst onto the streets in protests and riots. With the spotlight of the upcoming Olympic Games now on China, Tibetans are crying out to the world for change.

The Chinese government has said that the protesters who have not yet surrendered "will be punished". Its leaders are right now considering a crucial choice between escalating brutality or dialogue that could determine the future of Tibet, and China.

We can affect this historic choice--China does care about its international reputation. China's President Hu Jintao needs to hear that the 'Made in China' brand and the upcoming Olympics in Beijing can succeed only if he makes the right choice. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention--and we need it in the next 48 hours.

The Tibetan Nobel peace prize winner and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama has called for restraint and dialogue: he needs the world's people to support him. Click below now to sign the petition--and tell absolutely everyone you can right away--our goal is 1 million voices united for Tibet:

China's economy is totally dependent on "Made in China" exports that we all buy, and the government is keen to make the Olympics in Beijing this summer a celebration of a new China, respected as a leading world power. China is also a very diverse country with a brutal past and has reason to be concerned about its stability -- some of Tibet's rioters killed innocent people. But President Hu must recognize that the greatest danger to Chinese stability and development comes from hardliners who advocate escalating repression, not from Tibetans who seek dialogue and reform.

We will deliver our petition directly to Chinese officials in London, New York, and Beijing, but it must be a massive number before we deliver the petition. Please forward this email to your address book with a note explaining to your friends why this is important, or use our tell-a-friend tool to email your address book--it will come up after you sign the petition.

The Tibetan people have suffered quietly for decades. It is finally their moment to speak--we must help them be heard.

With hope and respect,

Ricken, Iain, Graziela, Paul, Galit, Pascal, Milena, Ben and the whole Avaaz team

PS - It has been suggested that the Chinese government may block the Avaaz website as a result of this email, and thousands of Avaaz members in China will no longer be able to participate in our community. A poll of Avaaz members over the weekend showed that over 80% of us believed it was still important to act on Tibet despite this terrible potential loss to our community, if we thought we could make a difference. If we are blocked, Avaaz will help maintain the campaign for internet freedom for all Chinese people, so that our members in China can one day rejoin our community.

Here are some links with more information on the Tibetan protests and the Chinese response:

BBC News: UN Calls for Restraint in Tibet

Human Rights Watch: China Restrain from Violently Attacking Protesters

Associated Press: Tibet Unrest Sparks Global Reaction

New York Times: China Takes Steps to Thwart Reporting on Tibet Protests